A Step, a Stroll, a Blog, a Book: Collecting My Thoughts
Judith Ellison Shenouda
Shenouda Associates Inc., 2022
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A Step, a Stroll, a Blog, a Book: Collecting My Thoughts wraps up a decade of favorite postings from the author’s blog. The years from 2011 through 2021 proved to be productive, thoughtful, and meaningful ones for this owner of a technical communication business who has authored and published books that allowed her to be expressive and creative with words and topics of interest. With much to blab and blog about, 30 plus blog postings—organized in chapters titled Calendar, Writing, Business, Communities, Passages, and Her Company—reveal wit, warmth, and wisdom. In the posting “Starts and Stops” the author wrote I started. I persevered. I finished. This might just explain how a step becomes a stroll and how a blog becomes a book. In this little gem of a book, we learn that it takes momentum to transform a step into a stroll and a blog into a book.
Author Judith Ellison Shenouda is the owner of a technical communication business that produces guides, manuals, and other print and electronic publications for clients. The author and publisher of her own books—Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal; A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way; Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty, Sweet Talk to Read Aloud, and A Step, a Stroll, a Blog, a Book: Collecting My Thoughts—and a blogger on topics related to her business and books, she is expressive and creative with words and ideas, evident in this delightful collection of her blog postings.
Take a First Step. Let the Momentum Unfold.
Blog posting January 15, 2014
Sometimes, we look at the end result of a new endeavor and get stuck. The effort needed to start and the energy required to persist are just too much. So, what can we do? We can take a first step. We can take a second step and a third.
I recall hearing a new year’s resolution a while ago, in which someone wanted to start an exercise routine. She committed to taking this one step every day—after getting dressed, she would put on her running shoes. The next thing she knew, she was outdoors every day and walking. As the days wore on, she picked up her pace, making good use of those running shoes.
For all of us, in time, the momentum builds, and the results become apparent. Making progress and achieving a goal no longer seem difficult or insurmountable. I took a first step a few months ago on a family project.
While wishing my cousin well on upcoming surgery, I heard the worry in her voice. To get onto a more upbeat topic, I asked this wonderful cook and baker for some favorite family recipes. Next thing I heard was, “We should get these recipes into a family cookbook.” We both agreed on step one. Since she would now have the gift of time, she would send an email to all the cousins, asking them to send her some favorite recipes. I was copied in on the responses.
As a wise person once said, “Be careful what you wish for.” Not only did we receive recipes, we received requests for recipes—Grandma Gert’s rice pudding; Aunt Jeanette’s sour cream, chocolate cake; and Cousin Mac’s cream cheese and pineapple brownies. And we heard some amusing family lore. Syd overturned Grandma’s big pot of fish that was slowly cooking atop the stove, and, sweet as she was, Grandma simply started the laborious process over again. Rhoda filled customers’ requests for a banana split at the soda fountain in her dad’s drug store by quietly going lickity-split out the back door to buy the requisite bananas. Grandma’s mile-high lemon meringue pie and other cooking delights helped to win the heart of her daughter’s beau.
One hundred plus pages later, this project is well past step one and has taken on a life of its own. Those who remember the sights, tastes, and aromas of the older generations’ kitchens are keeping them alive for the younger generations and generations to come. By summer, we will have a cookbook—a family treasure—and a wonderful reason to congregate.
What first steps have you taken that produced surprisingly happy results? We’d love to hear.
The finished book, A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way, is now available in print and eBook versions.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Blog posting December 16, 2019
Writing is like growing a garden. As we nurture the seedlings of ideas, the results we deliver are the product of a careful, methodical writing process that starts with understanding our readers’ needs and planning how to meet them.
At the start, we take a close look at the environment. We analyze the existing materials and start to picture the finished product. As the scope of work comes into focus, we map out how to move from the existing materials to the finished product. We consider how best to organize and format the deliverables. We assemble tools and break ground by creating a framework with outlines and templates. We sink our hands into the dirt, gather input from subject matter experts, and do our homework to understand the subject matter.
We place content into the right location and shape it into paragraphs, lists, tables, and other text elements. By leaving out whatever is not needed, we streamline ideas, showcasing the most important content and nurturing it to maturity.
We make sure that our creation matches our plans and feels like a balanced, unified whole. We check that the work is accurate and complete, minimizing distraction from jarring details.
As we walk through our garden, we confirm that it is easy to navigate. At harvest time, we publish our work, providing readers a bounty of new food for thought. Mature, published documents continue to grow and change with the seasons. We review and revise. We weed out what is no longer needed. We provide ongoing maintenance.
With the proper care, we allow our garden to grow.
Reading Nonfiction Books
Blog posting December 7, 2021
I just circulated a list of 25 nonfiction books to book club members. At next week’s meeting, we will select our books for 2022. When we do, I’ll keep in mind books that have been favorites during the past five years. Take a look. You might enjoy reading them and learning from them.
A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell. Virginia Hall, an American, a spy for the British, and an amputee with only one leg, performed heroic deeds during the French resistance.
Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson. With the setting for this book just an hour or so away, the events of this prison uprising were familiar from news accounts at the time. What was not familiar was the story of the devastation that occurred to real human beings and their families with lasting effects. What an eye opener.
The Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Constantine Croke. Set in World War II Burma, elephant wallah Billy Williams put elephants to work with compassion, tenderness, and love. What the elephants accomplished building bridges and leading an escape on a mountain stairway was nothing short of miraculous.
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. This thriller is a wake-up call of what occurs when those in power stop others they deem unworthy from rising, succeeding, and living the good life.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean. The Los Angeles Public Library burned to the ground in 1986. Library lover Susan Orlean explores why, who, and how this happened. From the devastation through the rebuilding and beyond, the library’s role as a magnet for people from all walks of life comes alive. There are many people to thank for making the public library a special place. I, for one, couldn’t live without it.
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe. Understanding the opposing parties during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, where violence ruled, is no easy matter. Patrick Radden Keefe gives an up close and personal account of a 1972 murder and exposes the personalities and motivations of the time.
Seven Million: A Cop, a Priest, a Soldier for the IRA, and the Still-Unsolved Rochester Brink’s Heist by Gary Craig. A local reporter and local crime story, the names and places were very familiar to book club members. With $7 million yet unfound and a tie to The Troubles in Northern Ireland, this book was a winner for our book club.
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild. For me, the highlight of this book was how Arlie Russell Hochschild synthesized what she learned about one side of America into one Deep Story and what she knew about the other side into another Deep Story. Different narratives. Different worldviews. The challenge is how to cross the divide.
These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill LePore. What I loved about this dense book that starts in 1492 and goes to just a few years’ short of the present day is the message I received: knowing our history is critical to understanding and confronting present times.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. Isabel Wilkerson tells the stories of real families who migrated from the South to the North and West in search of a better life. For black Americans, better was far from perfect. Captivated by the beautiful writing and rich, thoroughly researched content, our book club is now reading Wilkerson’s second book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Even in the opening pages, it’s clear that Caste is another must-read book.